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Mynott’s Musings - Conservative Incompetence and the 'Park, Ride and Stride' mystery.

March 12, 2021 9:14 PM
By Cllr Philip Mynott

Way back in November 2018 the Tories voted for the version of Brentwood's Local Plan that they had been pushing to see happen. Their Plan contained (amongst other things) an excessively high concentration of sites allocated for housing development in Brentwood, Shenfield and Warley. The Lib Dems had, even then, been criticising these proposals for years because of our fundamental concerns about the impact that they would have on infrastructure in these areas - particularly roads, doctors surgeries and schools. And even in November 2018 the Tories knew that the version of the Plan they were voting for was not the version that could be submitted, because numerous pieces of work still needed to be finished (or even started), including the crucial studies which would show if these proposals could actually make sense. So, since it was the Plan they (and they alone) had approved they surely should have continued to pay close attention to the plan's evolution thereafter - in case any of the problems that the Lib Dems had pointed out for years (and they had ignored), should prove as insoluble as we'd always feared, and therefore a new approach would be required.

However the Tories (having always stuck their heads in the sand over the Plan's many problems), simply went back to sleep after it was submitted. Meanwhile Brentwood's officers and consultants continued to work extremely hard on further pieces of work, essential to demonstrate whether the plan was viable and deliverable in the real world. Any responsible administration would (of course) have been involved all along in studying, guiding and informing this work - helping to ensure that it remained acceptable to residents who have to live in the real world, as well as to planners. Something the Tories have completely failed to do.

Cllr Philip MynottOne crucial challenge was somehow demonstrating that all of the town centre development airily agreed by the Tories wouldn't have immense and unresolvable negative effects on Brentwood as a town and a borough. In the version which has been submitted to the planning Inspectors, and discussed at the Local Plan Hearings in December 2020 and February/March 2021, a central claim was that town centre development wouldn't cause the insoluble road and junction problems that the Plan's own Transport Assessment apparently showed it did. This argument is partly based on the notion that town centre development is inherently sustainable - particularly that new residents of town centre developments wouldn't travel principally by car (as most Brentwood residents do), but would walk, use public transport, cycle, belong to car clubs etc, etc. All of which are good things, and Brentwood's Lib Dems would dearly love to see that kind of future (not least because it also desperately needs to happen in order for climate change to be averted) - but unless its realistic right now then we can't and won't support a plan which simply pretends this will happen; the plan has to be believable in the real world.

But sustainable transport in the town centre also needs to involve those travelling there to work, shop, eat and visit leisure facilities. The claim that this will happen focusses on a 'Park, Ride and Stride' scheme which has never been publicly discussed and assessed. And that scheme proposes Park, Ride and Stride hubs in three locations: the Brentwood Centre; land to the east of Wash Road, Hutton; and King George's Park. This information is publicly available on the council's own website as Appendices A and B of the latest iteration of the plan's Transport Assessment (document F65), and has been since January this year. One might have thought that the council's Conservative administration would be aware of what its own plan is proposing (indeed that - if it was doing its job, at all - it would have been closely involved in working out what these fundamentally important proposals would be). But neither of these things is true. At Ordinary Council on 10 March 2021, two months after these documents were published by the council of which they are supposed to be the administration, neither Cllr Hossack, Brentwood Council's Tory Leader, nor Cllr Poppy, whose Community Health and Housing committee has responsibility for King George's Park and the Brentwood Centre, were aware of these proposals. Cllr Hossack said "It's news to me Park and Ride from King Georges is proposed. There's not an immediate plan for it". Cllr Poppy said that he'd never seen any mention of Park and Ride at King George's.

Since Brentwood's Tories clearly can't be bothered to do the job of running the council and managing the Local Plan - probably the council's biggest single piece of work - maybe it would be better to vote Lib Dem at the elections on May the 6th. We'll put the work in - and, as our knowledge of the council's proposed Park Ride and Stride schemes shows, we already are putting the work in, unlike your yawning Tories.

Cllr Philip Mynott has been ward councillor for Brentwood North since 2010 and is deputy leader of Brentwood Liberal Democrats. He is our candidate for Brentwood Hutton Division at the county council elections on 6 May 2021.